'I've never encountered a single Nazi who expressed remorse'
A Nazi who fled Canada 15 years ago is under house arrest, writes DANIEL MCLAUGHLINin Budapest
WHEN 97-YEAR-OLD Hungarian Laszlo Csatary was finally found this month, and committed to house arrest in the Budapest apartment where he had been living undisturbed for over a decade, it gave hope to all those who still demand a reckoning with the world’s surviving Nazi war criminals.
Csatary is accused of torturing Jewish prisoners when he was a police commander in the town of Kosice during the second World War, and of sending thousands of Jews to their deaths in Ukraine and at Auschwitz. Kosice, now in Slovakia, was under Hungarian control during the war.
A Czechoslovak court sentenced Csatary to death in 1948, but he fled to Canada and lived as an art dealer in Montreal and Toronto until his past was revealed in 1995.
Facing deportation, he left Canada two years later and is believed to have lived in Budapest ever since.
He was found through a tip-off to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which is named after the Holocaust survivor who helped catch the likes of Adolf Eichmann, the main organiser of the so-called Final Solution, and Franz Stangl, SS commander of the death camps at Sobibor and Treblinka.
After Wiesenthal died in 2005, the mantle of world’s leading Nazi hunter passed to Efraim Zuroff, a New York-born Israeli who has spent three decades tracking down war criminals around the globe.
Zuroff leads the Wiesenthal Centre’s search for men like Csatary, who topped the wanted list of its Operation Last Chance, which calls on governments to do more to find former Nazis and offers a reward of up to €25,000 for information leading to the prosecution of war criminals ( operationlastchance.org).
“We subject tip-offs to three tests before we act: How credible is the information? Is the person concerned alive and can they be brought to justice? And have they ever previously been prosecuted for this crime?” Zuroff told The Irish Times.
He complains about a lack of funds, insists that he has no help from Israeli or other state agencies and jokes that “only in dreams” does he have a team of investigators on hand to identify, track and build cases against Nazi war criminals.
But he says the main impediment to prosecutions is the unwillingness of many countries to seriously investigate the crimes that their people committed in collaboration with or under the duress of their Nazi occupiers. He aims particularly sharp criticism at Austria, the Baltic states and Ukraine.